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Tonight's Matchup: Brewers (Wolf) vs Cubs (Garza)

George Kottaras remembers when Wil Nieves was Randy Wolf's personal catcher.
George Kottaras remembers when Wil Nieves was Randy Wolf's personal catcher.

The Brewers are 10-6 in night games this season, but 2-4 when Randy Wolf starts. Tonight we find out which trend is stronger.

As I just mentioned, it's Randy Wolf's (6.68 ERA, 4.68 FIP) turn to take the mound tonight. He's been a little better lately, posting a 5.09 ERA over his last four appearances and pitching at least five innings each time out. He was the losing pitcher in the Giants game on Saturday, when he allowed four runs on nine hits over six innings. He didn't walk a batter or allow a home run in that game. I feel like that has to be considered progress. Prior to Saturday he'd walked at least one batter in nine straight starts.

Despite the fact that Jonathan Lucroy is the Brewers' hottest hitter and Wolf has an ERA near seven, Lucroy still won't be in the lineup tonight because Wolf requires a personal catcher. I know getting Lucroy an occasional off day is important, but the team was just off yesterday so he probably doesn't need one today.

Wolf didn't face the Cubs when these two teams met in April, but did make four starts against them last year. He posted a 3.16 ERA over 25.2 innings in those games, walking four and striking out 20. Five Cub position players have faced him ten times or more:

Alfonso Soriano 40 .257 .325 .457 .782
Geovany Soto 32 .333 .375 .667 1.042
Jeff Baker 25 .417 .440 .625 1.065
Starlin Castro 19 .389 .421 .667 1.088
Reed Johnson 15 .133 .133 .133 .267

He'll face Matt Garza (2.67 ERA, 2.95 FIP), who posted a season worth five wins above replacement (fWAR) in 2011 and is on pace to do roughly the same in 2012. He's coming off a very good start against the Phillies on April 29, when he pitched seven shutout innings and allowed just one hit, walking one and striking out ten. He missed his last turn in the rotation with illness.

Assuming Garza is healthy now, the Brewers should expect to see a mid-90's fastball tonight, mixed with a lot of sliders. Garza has thrown the slider roughly 27% of the time in 2012, compared to a career average of 16.5%. In a related note, the slider is also his best pitch.

Many of you will likely remember that Garza dominated the Brewers at Wrigley on April 12, pitching 8.2 scoreless innings and only missing out on a shutout because he threw a grounder into the stands in the ninth. Five current Brewers have faced him ten times or more:

Cesar Izturis 16 .231 .333 .308 .641
Ryan Braun 14 .250 .357 .583 .940
Nyjer Morgan 14 .462 .462 .615 1.077
Rickie Weeks 14 .154 .214 .154 .368
Corey Hart 10 .143 .400 .143 .543

Here's tonight's lineup:

Nyjer Morgan CF
Rickie Weeks 2B
Ryan Braun LF
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Corey Hart RF
George Kottaras C
Taylor Green 1B
Cesar Izturis SS
Randy Wolf P

In the bullpen:

John Axford pitched one inning (32 pitches) Wednesday.
Jose Veras, Tim Dillard and Kameron Loe last pitched on Tuesday.
Vinnie Chulk and Manny Parra last pitched on Monday.
Francisco Rodriguez last pitched on Sunday.

It's a beautiful day today in Milwaukee, so the Miller Park roof is expected to be open for just the second time in 2012. Hopefully tonight it will remain open for more than three batters. The Brewers are 1-0 this season in home games that begin with the roof open.